In the lifespan of most mythical-- let alone cosmic-- objects, 48 years is comparable to human terms like “a long weekend” or “sitting through five minutes of improv comedy.”Legends about mystical hammers and enchanted swords can take a few thousand years to get rolling...and if a prophecy gets attached to these things, up to three extra generations might pass in just the foreword to the story. Theoretically, a “mythical” object at age 48 has only existed roughly as long as the popularity of slap bracelets to other relics and artifacts.   

The Cosmic Cube, arguably the most powerful force in the Marvel Universe, turns 48 on July 10. First appearing in Tales of Suspense #79, The Cube was originally a man-made device for altering reality according to the whim of its then-possessor, the Red Skull. In the 1960s, this usually amounted to using The Cube’s powers for mere mind control. Now firmly established as Marvel’s MacGuffin-to-end-all-MacGuffins, this co-creation between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would go on to help subdue intergalactic mega-heavy Thanos, spawn the Super-Adaptoid, and eventually evolve into a sentient being itself, Kubik.

More cubes would pop up around the different Marvel Universes-- both the Kree and Skrull alien races developed their own lesser-known Cubes, the Asgardian Tesseract is featured in more Marvel feature films than Captain America, and a Cosmic Cube unfortunately falls to Thanos’ home planet in the Ultimate Universe. Scientists on Earth-616 have since learned The Cubes can also be a naturally occurring phenomena, formed by energy seeping from a rift in one dimension to another and harnessed by a natural or man-made matrix called a “Cosmic Containment Unit.” In 1981, a sentient version of the Skrulls’ Cosmic Cube, The Shaper of Worlds, even bridged one of the widest divides in comic books and briefly united The Incredible Hulk in a reality with the Distinguished Competition’s Batman and the Joker. Surprisingly, the Hulk/Batman team-up actually seems believable when it’s juxtaposed with a near-omnipotent entity who chooses to look like half of an animatronic Skrull grafted on a NASA Mars rover. Then again, the half-tank look still holds up better than Dazzler’s first costume with the rollerskates and facepaint.          

Nestling between the plausibility of Arthurian lore and American pro wrestling, The Cosmic Cube’s influence may even reach into the “real world.” Industry insiders and diehard comic book collectors continue to debate the fanboy gospel that former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Tom DeFalco is no stranger to manipulating The Cube’s reality altering properties around the watercooler. Controversial predecessor Jim Shooter’s all-powerful version of the Beyonder character in the 1980s defeated not only planet-devouring Galactus but also the Celestials (Jack Kirby’s largest creations in the Marvel Universe, many standing at over 2,000 feet tall). After Shooter’s departure from Marvel, and supposedly under DeFalco’s punitive direction, it was revealed the Beyonder was really a part of an incomplete Cosmic Cube and his past feats of almost unimaginable power were illusions, essentially rewriting (or “retconning”) one of Shooter’s biggest contributions to the decade’s comics out of existence entirely. However, judging by the still-existing legions of Secret Wars action figures, these reports may be greatly exaggerated.

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